Minnesota Pork Board member and agricultural blogger Wanda Patsche shares her Top Ten list of reasons why time spent at her state's pork congress pays off.
The 2014 Minnesota Pork Congress is history. Attendance was down this year, most likely due to ice and snow that blanketed the state during the early part of the show. It's unfortunate because it was a tremendous event. So in lieu of the weather, I thought I would give my "Top 10 Reasons Why I Attend the Minnesota Pork Congress".
10. The Taste of Elegance. A definite highlight of the Pork Congress! It's fun to see chefs from all over Minnesota competing for top prizes showcasing their creative pork dishes. And we, the attendees, are the recipients of their scrumptious pork recipes! My advice? Plan on not eating much prior to attending because you need every ounce of your appetite to savor a multitude of pork dishes.
9. The chance to meet dignitaries. I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Minnesota Representative Paul Anderson  from the Alexandria area. Even though he is not my representative, we still talked about state legislative issues that affect us on the farm. And being a farmer himself, we easily connected and he understood our concerns.
8. The opportunity to meet and talk with pork industry leaders. Neil Dierks , CEO of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), attended the Minnesota Pork Congress and I was fortunate enough to meet him. In addition to Mr. Dierks, other people from the NPPC office were in attendance. They really do want to meet and hear from pork producers and the Pork Congress is a perfect venue to do just that.
7. Talk with company representatives. The trade show is another highlight of the Pork Congress. Pork producers can check out new products or talk with companies they currently do business with. For example, we were able to talk with representatives from Hormel about current issues affecting pork producers. I can't stress enough how important it is to have person-to-person contact with these companies.
6. Educational seminars. Pork producers want to do the best job they can raising pigs. It's seems the pork industry is always learning new and better ways to raise healthy hogs. Seminars are a key component at the pork congress to help pork producers stay abreast of new information. Seminar topics range from: antibiotic residue, analyzing records to make better decisions, managing hog viruses, discussing current political issues affecting pork producers, and how important trust is to our farms and our industry.
5. Honor outstanding pork producers. A handful of people involved in the pork industry are honored during the Minnesota Pork Congress. They are honored for outstanding contributions in their respective areas such as Pork Farm Family, Swine Manger, Pork Promoter, Environmental Stewards and Distinguished Service.  My family was humbly honored to be named the 2012 Pork Farm Family of the Year. Our family realized that the award is not about us, but rather, a celebration of the pork industry.
4. Promote the pork industry. As a pork producer, it is all of our responsibility to talk with others about our farms. There are many ways to do just that. I had the opportunity to give two radio interviews, where I talked about ag issues. Giving interviews is not easy for me. But I push myself to do it because I feel it is necessary and my responsibility to talk about my farm and livelihood.
3. Opportunities to network. Networking can mean many things. Networking can mean connecting with others for potential job opportunities, networking for potential future business endeavors or networking with other pork industry professionals such as veterinarians and animal nutritionists.
2. Talk with other hog farmers. Sometimes it's talking to our next door neighbors and sometimes it's talking with other hog farmers from across the state. Let me just state, hog farmers love to talk to each other. They love to share what is happening on their farms, good or bad. Not only do we learn from industry leaders, but sometimes more importantly, hog farmers learn from each other.
1. It's just plain fun! Pork farmers from Minnesota (yes, I am biased!) are awesome people. Plus, it's good to get off the farm for a day or two where we can make ourselves better hog farmers.
More about Wanda:
Wanda Patsche shares information about her farm on her "Minnesota Farm LIving" website and blog at http://www.mnfarmliving.com/  . She also works to connect with the non-farm audience via her Minnesota Farm Living Facebook page.